Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Cadillac Desert -- the Story of William Mulholland and the Making of Los Angeles


This is the Real Story behind Robert Towne's brilliant 1974 picture, "Chinatown."

There are nine parts on YouTube, from a 1997 VHS videotape that's not in very good condition, but if you put up with the glitches and watch it all, you'll gain some knowledge about Los Angeles as it was and is, and from that it becomes possible to understand something of why so much of what is seems so far out of whack.

The "Chinatown" syndrome is not the only explanation for the vicissitudes we're facing, but it is a key to understanding.


  1. Finally, I got to watch this movie. Thanks for linking it. I never read the book, because I knew it would make me so angry. It made me depressed, almost beyond anger. It all is so familiar. Greed and selfishness and lack of forward thinking or care for the future for all things. Smaller-scale (compared to LA, that is, but they are big around here) water wars burble up where I live, a semi-arid land, so I am acquainted with some of the same issues, battles, and bitter rancor. As long as people keep reproducing and consuming there will no end to this. Anywhere. In the whole planet. As we see.

    (By the by, how are you doing? Must be doing better, as you have been quite active on your blog! Nice to see that.)

  2. Hey!

    Obviously, I haven't been active enough -- or maybe I have been too active -- because I just noticed your comment.

    Yes, the real story of LA's Water is the kind of nightmare that's at the root of the California Dream. Despite the glamor, it isn't a pretty picture. And no matter how it has been buffed and polished, the effects of what the Mulhollands and the LA Capitalists did back then reverberate today, often completely unconsciously, among Angelenos and Californians in general. We know not -- for the most part -- what was done and is still being done. During the last few years, for example, California has been under Drought restrictions on water use. There has been no actual Drought, as anyone who follows the rainfall and snowpack statistics can tell. What's happened instead is that the Powers That Be have decided that it is time to fundamentally change the way water is used and distributed in California, and to do it, they have invented a "Drought" to force changes (some of which I agree with.) But it gets really murky, too, because many of those who are allocated agricultural water are busily screaming about how they are being "denied" water for their crops, which aren't planted in any case, but then are quietly selling their allocations -- for big bucks -- either to other growers or to urban water districts, making out like the bandits they are.

    Then there are the night time releases of water from the reservoirs to make it seem like water storage is waaaaay down.

    It's just like "Chinatown," and many observers have pointed it out.

    So this year, of course, we're being innundated and we have a change of administration in the Capitol. Guess what, "Drought's over!"

    There never was one to begin with! What there was was a few years of slightly lower rainfall and snowpack that was spun up as if it was the worst Drought EVAH!


    Meanwhile, thanks for asking about my recovery. Mostly I'm doing OK, and I usually feel fine, though still pitifully weak. I'm starting to get an appetite back, which I'm sort of spanking myself over because I lost a lot of weight that I needed to lose anyway, and I don't want to gain it back. Still have some respiratory issues to clear up, but it is really much better. Step by step, slowly, slowly.... ;-)